The garbage disposal is one of those fixtures you might not think too much about-until it breaks. Since it hit the market in 1938, it's remained one of the most popular time- and labor-saving fixtures in any era's contemporary kitchen.
When you scrape excess food off your plate, it heads down the drain and onto a turntable. At the flip of a switch, the motor is turned on which spins the turntable. The centrifugal force throws the food against the surrounding shredder ring. Some disposals also have a series of blades to chop the particles up even finer. The particles are then flushed down through the outlet and into the drainage pipes.
The benefits are pretty clear: it eliminates food and bacteria buildup from old, rotting food particles.
Downsides? An obvious one is the noise. But since garbage disposals run only for a matter of seconds, this disadvantage of this is minimal.
A big one, however, is the amount of waste produced. Food waste ultimately travels to water treatment plants. The load of organic carbon that reaches the treatment plant increases, boosting the amount of oxygen consumed. Millions of households later, this can strain water treatment plants, not to mention the environment, with the possibility of chemicals in the waste and pollutants produced in the process.
Many countries have actually outlawed garbage disposals. And in 2008, the city of Raleigh, N.C., implemented a ban on the replacement and installation of garbage disposals, which extend to outlying towns sharing the city's municipal sewage system.
Keep in mind that a garbage disposal is not designed to shred every type of food waste. If you're unsure, it's best to just drop the food in the garbage or compost it.
Some of the hard foods you'll want to avoid putting down the garbage disposal include bones (especially the larger, heavier ones), popcorn kernels that refused to be popped and shellfish (like crabs and shrimp).
Fibrous and starchy foods like banana peels, celery and cornhusks can get tangled inside your garbage disposal, and potato peelings, rice and flour can thicken and harden in the drain. Also, avoid pasta, rice, cornmeal and bread.
Other ways to prolong the life of your garbage disposal:
Your garbage disposal is designed to give you years of service. With a little research and some TLC, your garbage disposal will continue to be a smooth-running and valuable part of your kitchen.
Until next time, Happy Home Improving!